Monthly Archives: July 2014

Double Standards on Violence

A recent exchange on a Facebook group event page illustrates the double standard we have in this country when it comes to female violence versus male violence. Here is the background: a party is being held in honor of a woman we’ll call Jill. One of the men in the group — let’s call him Sam — teasingly writes,

“Who is Jill again?”

In the comments section we see the following:

Jill: “I’mma punch you in the face.” [8 likes]

Jill: “With love.” [3 likes]

Jill: “Love is the name of my fist.” [8 likes]

I don’t mean to criticize Jill here; she’s a great person, and the above is all in fun. And yet…

Think how people would react if the sexes were reversed here. If a woman had teased a man, and he had responded with Jill’s lines, you would not have seen 8 likes — you would have seen a storm of condemnation. Nor is this just about the size and physical capabilities of the parties. Jill is a healthy, fit woman; although I’m sure Sam is capable of defending himself, I suspect that Jill could still deliver a painful punch. Again, reversing the sexes, does anyone doubt that even if the man were small and weak, and the woman fit and well-versed in martial arts, he would still be roundly condemned for such remarks, the only difference being that he would also be ridiculed?

I have to admit that my own gut instincts seem to follow some version of this double standard. It’s my intellect that is troubled by Jill’s remarks, not my emotional response, and I know that I would be repelled by hearing any man of any sort making those kinds of remarks to a woman.

Yet there are significant negative consequences to this double standard. I don’t have the U.S. numbers at hand, but a recent study found that in the U.K. more than 40% of domestic violence victims are men who have been assaulted by their partners. We care a lot about female victims of domestic abuse, but nobody cares about the male victims, because we don’t take female violence seriously. In the U.S., the majority of the perpetrators of child abuse are female, and yet the popular stereotype is that it is almost exclusively men who commit child abuse. How can you effectively combat child abuse if the majority of the perpetrators are invisible to you?